Transvestic fetishism is having a sexual or erotic interest in cross-dressing. It differs from cross-dressing for entertainment or other purposes that do not involve sexual arousal and is categorized as a paraphilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. (Sexual arousal in response to donning sex-typical clothing is homeovestism.)

Transvestic fetishism refers specifically to cross-dressing; sexual arousal in response to individual garments is fetishism. Occurrence of transvestic fetishism is uncorrelated to occurrence of gender identity disorder. Most men who have transvestic fetishism do not have a problem with their assigned sex.

Some male transvestic fetishists collect women’s clothing, e.g. nightgowns, babydolls, slips, brassieres, and other types of nightwear,lingerie, stockings, pantyhose, shoes, and boots, items of a distinct feminine look and feel. They may dress in these feminine garments and take photographs of themselves while living out their secret fantasies. According to the DSM-IV, this fetishism has been described only in men.

There are two key criteria before a psychiatric diagnosis of “transvestic fetishism” is made:

  1. Recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, urges, or behaviour, involving cross-dressing.
  2. This causes clinically significant distress or impairment, whether socially, at work, or elsewhere.

Thus, transvestic fetishism is not diagnosed unless it causes significant problems for the person concerned.

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